Read an Excerpt
Healing Power of Mind
(Shambhala Publications, 1996) was published, I have traveled to many places in
North America and Europe. During those trips, I explained the healing principles in the book and led guided meditations on healing. I also received many letters of appreciation and comments from readers of diverse backgrounds.
It is an interesting experience to be out in the world after publishing a book,
especially for someone from my background. Until the age of eighteen, my home was Dodrupchen Monastery, in a secluded valley of eastern Tibet, surrounded by mighty mountains, where the routine of study and prayer was regulated by the passage of the sun and moon in the sky. The Tibet I remember when I was growing up was a timeless place, deeply religious, removed from the distractions of the modern world.
In some ways, the life I have lived for several decades in the United States is not so very far removed from that monastic existence. At home in my simple but welcoming apartment in a big city, I am surrounded by my collection of scriptures and Buddhist images, which shine forth as living artifacts of timeless truths. Much of my work has been as a lifelong student and interpreter of Buddhism, translating ancient texts so that the spark of their wisdom might take hold and catch fire in English and other languages of the Western world. I
spend a lot of time alone, studying the scriptures and meditating, although I
am blessed with many friends in my adopted country. Over the years, all kinds of people have come to me for advice about the struggles of their lives. This is why I wrote the first book on the mind's healing power five years ago—to talk about how we can help ourselves in our daily lives.
After that book was published, suddenly I was out of my comfortable, cell-like apartment and meeting with large groups of people from different parts of the
West. All these encounters in the past few years have confirmed a belief of mine: we need encouragement in how to live. Maybe we have a dawning interest in meditation or have read a book or attended a workshop, or perhaps we have been traveling along a spiritual path for a number of years. No matter, it seems that as humans, we can always use more help. We need a teacher to point to truths that can guide us. We need to take good care of ourselves and learn how to be more encouraging and positive in our attitudes.
Most of the people in my workshops were amazingly open to the meditations, giving them their whole attention and energy. Even for those who were new to meditation or dealing with big problems, the meditations were effective and enjoyable, thanks to their dedication.
Some who were new to any kind of meditation worried about how they would be able to sit for two or three hours and then were amazed to find that the session had ended. Some experienced a feeling of spaciousness and clarity, a crack in their usual closed and tight confinement. For a while, some felt love and openness in which resentment, anxiety, dislike, or hatred could no longer be harbored. Some felt peace and strength in which attachment, craving, or jealousy had no place.
Others felt that no problem was that big a deal. Even sickness seemed less significant—a passing phase in boundless space, like a patch of clouds in the sky.
In almost every workshop, there were people who politely excused themselves,
having found that the attempt to meditate aroused strong resistance. Others seemed to struggle but stayed with it and did fine. Still others appeared at first to have a good experience, but because they didn't acknowledge and appreciate the positive feelings, much of the benefit slipped away.
For many, nothing seemed to work, for they were not ready to open up. Nothing could penetrate their problems, fortified as they were by rigid mental and emotional walls. It was rather shocking that some so-called experienced meditators got little benefit from the healing meditations, because they held tight to their judgments about the particular approach to meditation. They appeared rooted in an attitude of pride and insecurity.
One of my most gratifying discoveries that emerged from the reaction to the first book was that anyone with an open heart appeared to benefit, no matter whether he or she was Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or an avowed unbeliever belonging to no organized religion. A couple of people with experience in a twelve-step program for recovering from addiction were happy the book could be a source of guidance without requiring a belief in God or an adherence to organized religion. Further, Buddhism advises us to be mindful of the present moment, to let go of unneeded worries about past and future. This finds an echo in the twelve-step principle of living one day at a time.
Like its predecessor, the book you now hold in your hand is intended to benefit anyone, regardless of background. You need not practice a religion designated by the name of Buddhism to find peace and happiness, or even enlightenment.
Wisdom and compassion are present in all and can shine from the heart of any being, even from the hearts of animals, as many
folk legends illustrate. The most important thing is the birth and growth of spirituality in your mind, not the ceremonial designations.
According to Buddhist scriptures, this is the reason why many self-enlightened sages
are able to attain the highest truth in a land and an age where there is no
Buddha or Buddhism. They become enlightened by themselves because of their commitment to spirituality and their realization of the same wisdom that
Here again in this book, we are concerned not so much with the ultimate goal of enlightenment but rather with becoming happier and more peaceful in everyday life. And while some meditations using Buddhist imagery are presented later in the book, the emphasis is on a universal approach that anyone can use.
My own heritage is Nyingma Buddhism, the oldest Tibetan sect, dating back to the ninth century, when the great sage Padmasambhava brought the revelations of the
Buddha from India to Tibet. Although I am initiated into the esoteric Tantric practices, I have the deepest respect for the common teachings, or Sutras. In fact, I practice many of them myself. These teachings contain everyday wisdom that is like a deep and refreshing well. If practiced with dedication, they can grant peace and contentment and even lead to higher realization. It is these sources from which I have drawn, spiced with just a bit of my own knowledge of esoteric practice that I have adapted for Western readers.
People are sometimes surprised when I tell them there are thousands of meditations and practices from which to choose, depending on the person and circumstance. You could bring healing to your being just by listening to the wind or looking deep into the blue sky or watching the stars in the vast heavens above. In Tibet,
the sense of spirituality was so strong that the very rivers, trees, and bushes seemed alive with sacred blessings. There's a famous Tibetan tale of a simple elderly woman who kept an old dog's tooth upon which she meditated,
successfully using it as a means to realize enlightenment. Of course, it wasn't the object itself but her mind's strong belief. For it is mind, above all, that is the source of healing power and wisdom.
Against this backdrop of a myriad of possible meditations, I found in my workshops one approach that seemed especially fruitful: the object of the meditation is the body itself. Now, everyone who comes to a workshop has a body, so you see right away that the attendees have what is needed to do some meditation! Furthermore,
so many people are concerned about their bodies. Either they are healthy and want to remain so, or they are worried about aging, or their bodies may be sick or broken, and at the very least, they need relief from the mental anguish that sickness can cause. In Chapter 14 of
Healing Power of Mind,
I gave a very brief description of a meditation upon the body. This present book has grown from that small seed. We are going to reflect very deeply upon our bodies in this book. The purpose is to awaken the healing energies of the body and, in so doing, awaken the mind.
While it is not always possible to cure the afflictions of the body, at least we can ease our suffering or learn to tolerate it better. In fact, a sickness can often be overcome through the healing power of mind. In the West, when people hear the expression
they often put the label "New Age" on it. This is a rather strange way to look at it, and maybe a little funny from my point of view, for the principles and practices I will be describing are not so new at all but have been tested time and again over many years.
In my first book on this subject, I referred to a number of recent studies Western science has done on the benefits of meditation, and I also gave some examples of healings. It's always inspiring to hear about individual cases, so later on
I'll talk about the specific meditation I used to heal a difficult back problem
I had. I should also mention the example of my friend Harry Winter, who, by meditating, overcame a cancer that was diagnosed as terminal. Readers seemed so interested in his story in the first book that I decided to describe again the special visualization he used (see page 43). More recently, Harry has been using another visualization (described on page 44) to overcome the breathlessness associated with emphysema.
The question I am often asked is, What scientific proof or statistics do you have to show that these meditations can really heal problems? My answer is simple. I
am attempting to present the profound, centuries-old, Tibetan Buddhist wisdom on healing in a comprehensible package that suits modern readers who are educated and open-minded but overly occupied. Each step of meditation is based on a universal, natural, and commonsense approach. If it is common sense, there is no need for complicated validation or any statistics. For example,
the roasted flour of barley, is the main staple of Tibetans. For Tibetans, the edibility or nutritional value of tsampa has never needed proof. I believe the issue is not the lack of effectiveness of the meditations but our lack of openness and dedication.
For hundreds of years, Buddhists, as well as members of many of the world's other spiritual traditions, have witnessed healing through the power of meditations,
prayers, and aspirations. Not only ordinary problems but even life-threatening diseases thought to be incurable have been healed through the power of meditation. Also, we have often witnessed spiritual people calmly accepting sickness, prison, homelessness, or even death with smiling faces because of the peace and joy in the deepest core of their being. That is what we call the healing power of the mind.
In recent decades, Western physicians and scientists have begun to discover the great healing powers of age-old meditations and prayers. Many scientists are puzzled by the depth of knowledge attained by the ancient masters, who employed no scientific instruments. Nevertheless, there will always be many who will doubt, even though the proof is dancing at the tips of their noses.
We live in a golden age of science and medicine, even as we rediscover the ancient knowledge from the golden age of the mind's wisdom. Instead of pitting these worlds against each other, we could choose to enjoy the benefits of both.
I look out upon the earnest faces of those who come to my workshops, I
sometimes wonder what they must be thinking. Perhaps they know that I was designated, when very young, as the reincarnation of a sage from another age.
At age five, I was ushered into a life of prayer and study at the monastery.
For some, I must seem quite exotic, but if they come expecting miracles, I hope they stay to learn a thing or two about the deep wisdom that is a birthright of us all. Some people at these gatherings may have trouble understanding my accent and my somewhat broken English. One reason for a Tibetan priest to write a book (yes, on my laptop computer!) is to make my message clearer and to cut through the cultural differences.
To be honest with you, I do not consider myself an "adept" or accomplished master.
I am just a person who, like you, must navigate the sometimes rough seas of life. It is this shared humanity that I wish to emphasize. As for many of you,
my life has not always been easy or smooth. I have experienced confusion and conflict, emotional upsets, and physical hardship. This was especially true when I was a refugee fleeing the political turmoil of Tibet, but there have been plenty of problems since then, too. Through all the difficult times, the guiding lights of ancient teachings have consistently helped me enjoy the wondrous gift of existence with all its challenges.
I have to offer is not really my own but rather a treasure that everyone can share. Early in life, I was blessed and fortunate enough to be handed a legacy of unsurpassed knowledge by teachers and sages. I have many memories of the greatest of human beings, of powerful images, words, and feelings ripe with peace, love, and wisdom. These memories remain vivid and undying in my mind today. As a Tibetan proverb says, "If a piece of ordinary wood is kept in the midst of sandal trees for a long time, it will also smell like sandalwood."
This is why, even if I am ordinary, I could be a vessel to bring you the great wisdom of healing.
In this book, I talk a lot about the body and the mind. But really, it is the mind that matters more. After all, sickness and death are part of the natural cycle of a life that involves the gross body and emotional mind. There is no way of avoiding illnesses forever. You have to face them when your turn comes. At such a time, the most reliable source of support is a more peaceful mind. This will help you accept and tolerate life in all its manifestations, just as you accept the cycle of light in the day and darkness at night. The third Dodrupchen, a sage who lived at the turn of this century, offers this gem of wisdom: "The meaning of becoming invincible to obstructions—such as adversaries, sickness,
and evil forces—is not necessarily reversing them or preventing them from arising but not allowing them to become obstructions to our journey on the path
Those of you who have read
Healing Power of Mind
may be familiar with many of the principles also contained in this present book. Just as my wise teachers often repeated their advice, so, too, have I
purposely done the same. This is partly for anyone who has not read that first book, but it is also because most people need repetition. They need to hear the truth again and again from others and to encourage themselves with constant reminders. I might add that the first book goes into greater detail on some healing principles and also presents many different meditations that may be applicable to your situation.
never take any healing meditation as the only solution for your problems.
Problems are multiple and manifested in a variety of symptoms. Each problem is the product of numerous causes. You need a variety of approaches to your problems, including a balance of exercise and rest, wholesome nutrition, proper medicine, a clean environment, and a healthy lifestyle.
different people have different healing needs. What is right for one person may not be for another. After a few days (or about twenty-one hours) of training,
if you don't feel that these particular meditations are comforting, they might not be right for you, so you should seek a different meditative approach.
From the ocean of healing wisdom taught in Buddhism, I've arranged a few sips of healing nectar that my mind has tasted as a simple offering to you.